Jean Dubuffet: Artist Portrait

Jean Dubuffet

Born 1901. Died 1985.

Jean Dubuffet Biography

Born to wine merchants in 1901 in Le Havre, France, Jean Dubuffet transitioned between winemaking and art until fully dedicating himself to his creative practice in 1942. In 1918, DuBuffet had attended the acclaimed Academie Julien in Paris and there formed friendships with fellow painters Fernand Legér and André Masson. Dubuffet quickly found the academy too rigid, and left to study independently immersing himself in poetry, music and language. After marrying in 1924 he established a small wine business and though he returned to painting in 1934 with a series of portraits, he stopped soon after during the Nazi Occupation of France.

French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet was the founder of the art movement known as Art Brut during the 1940s. He is remembered for his cultivation of ‘low art.” In 1942, Dubuffet made a dedicated return to painting, depicting urban subject matter – crammed city blocks, people riding the metro or walking down the street. In these works his colors are bold and solid, showing the influence of Fauvism and German Expressionism. It was a 1945 visit to a Jean Fautrier exhibition that brought Dubuffet to his artistic breakthrough. He considered Fautrier’s works an attempt at pure expression and was inspired by his incorporation of nontraditional materials into his canvases. Dubuffet then began mixing materials including mud, sand, pebbles, glass string and other materials into oil paint, creating a thick paste, which applied with a painting spatula. He was able to carve and cut lines into the textured surface. The works were infused with an irony and humor.

Dubuffet’s works are included in major museum collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate Modern, London, and the Fondation Jean Dubuffet, Paris. His paintings continue to perform well at auction. According to Sotheby’s Mei Moses, the average compound annual return for Jean Dubuffet resold at auction between 2003 and 2017 was 7.7%. 90.5% of 190 such works increased in value.

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Artist Image: © The Estate of Jean Dubuffet / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018 / Apic/RETIRED / Contributor